After the Spring Celebration a couple of weeks back, we’re now in a period that was celebrated by my ancestors as the first day of summer… even though neither in Sweden nor here it feels very summery at this point! It’s definitely clear that the seasons have turned and, apart a few southerly storms, it’s only going to get better.
Traditionally, this is the time for planting out the garden and dream of great healthy yields. To invite all the good energies / spirits / blessings (or whatever you want to call them) people used to light two new fires, by friction, and walk in between them. They also led the cattle between the fires to make the dairy ferment better! Often, all the old bones from winter were burned in these fires, and the ashes (with all that precious calcium) spread on the gardens. We can simulate this by making biochar and bonechar – we ran an internal workshop on biochar at workerBe oasis last weekend and are planning a public one for you – stay tuned!
Another tradition of this season was to visit a holy tree or well. I like to think of this as an invitation to connect with the wild nature surrounding us, maybe by a walk up a little stream in the forest. Feeling the energies of spring and summer growth that are present in the rising sap and sticking bare feet in the rushing water is such a pleasant way to welcome the warmer season! And if we don’t have the opportunity for a nature walk, maybe a few green branches by the entrance door, decorated with ribbons? Yellow flowers are abundant at this time and symbolise the light and warmth coming – maybe some broom branches?
To do this week (new moon Sunday 30th)
- Check your brassicas are doing all right, give them extra seaweed liquid to strengthen their natural resistance to sucking insects and caterpillars
- After the rain we had Wednesday, everything will grow crazy this week! But warm days alternate with cold, and Monday night will be quite cold by the looks of it. If you’ve planted out any heatlovers (chilli, tomato, aubergine…) continue to protect them overnight with a plastic cloche or microklima cloth.
- Enjoy the growth burst! Find a nice spot to sit down and observe the garden. So much is going on now!
- Continue to pamper your seedlings so you can plant them out in the first half of November.
- Keep on top of weeds by weekly hoeing.
- Sow seeds for flowers and companions: sunflowers, cosmos, gaillardia, alyssum…
Prepp for next week
- By the end of this week, put the pots or trays of seedlings outside during the days to start hardening them off. Then progressively put them out for longer and longer periods. Before planting, leave them just next to where you will plant them for a good 24 hours. Slow hardening off means the plants are much less stressed and will cope with the planting out much better, leading to less slug/snail attacks and healthier plants.
- Make sure you’ve got all the liquid fertilisers you need, gather materials to start new ones if you need. Best time to liquid feed is before and after full moon, that’s in about 2 weeks time.
- Book a workshop 🙂 Next Wednesday, we’re working out plans for gardens to make the most of both the time and space we have. I’ll go through, step by step, how to plan a new vege garden, and how to adapt what you have to make it more efficient and abundant: Garden in Time & Space.
For the next five Wednesdays, I’ll be running the Grow More Veges workshops. This week we did Perfect Compost, next week we’ll explore Double Digging and soil health in general, then you can learn about how to Garden in Time & Space – how to arrange your beds and your plantings to maximise the use of a small urban garden. Finally, we’ll go through the nitty gritty of how to Sow Seeds (and which to choose) so they produce healthy seedlings, looking at their families, history and needs ; and how to Plant Plants so the tender youngsters survive and thrive. Finally, we’ll cover Maintenance, to make sure you have what you need to keep all your edibles happy and productive all through the year.
You can take the workshops independently, or all in a row as they do partly build on each other. My aim with this workshop series is to provide the full range of basic knowledge and hands-on skills you need to be able to grow a decent amount of your own fresh veges in Wellington. Advice and ideas are tested and proven to work with the climate we have here and with the size and styles of gardens that are common here – steep slopes, awkward shade, natives, clay or sand subsoil etc. There are still spots open, so don’t hesitate to sign up if you’re tempted! The groups are small and there’s plenty of opportunities for questions and discussion.
If you’ve seen me lately, you know I’ve got a bulging bump! By the end of November, I’ll go on maternity leave. I’m not setting a specific date for being back in action, but I do have the intention of running this workshop series again in April… if I feel up for it, if it’s still a priority for me – chances are my priorities change with this major new person in my life. So if you’re keen on learning, now is the time!
This week in your Edible Oasis
- If you have any brassicaceae growing in your garden (cabbage, kale, cavolo nero, broccoli, cauli…), get Bt-spray to stop the ravages of the white butterfly caterpillars (see photo above) which are becoming more and more present. Bt comes as a powder, marketed by KiwiCare brand as “Caterpillar Control”, that you dilute in water and spray onto all surfaces of the plant. These “Bacillum thuringiensis” will infect the caterpillars and cause them to die, hopefully before they have devoured your plants!
- If you managed to get hold of some comfrey root last week, you can plant it now. Each plant takes up a good 60-80cm round, so plant pieces of root at that distance and mulch between.
- We have this strong southerly today and tomorrow, but then it will get more stable from Sunday on. Make sure your cloches and other light structures (pea teepees etc) are anchored well enough to not blow away tonight!
- Keep an eye on rainfall – anything less than 5mm in a 24h period is probably only wetting the top few centimeters, so check soil moisture a spade depth down too. It’s good to get the habit now, so you know what moist vs. too dry soil looks like in summer. For example, check Monday night when we’ve had 3-4 days of no rain and lots of wind, and then again Wednesday night after the rain.
- If your site is getting dry (at a spade depth) start watering. And water direct sown seeds daily until they develop true leaves.
- Apply mulch anywhere you haven’t yet (apart from on your direct sown seeds). Seaweed is really good for fruit trees and bushes this time of year, check the south coast for washed up stuff after the southerly swell, making sure you avoid the Marine Reserves!
- If your berry bushes are starting to form fruit, put netting up this week – by next week the berries may already start to take on some colour and the birds will quickly find them!
- If you have germinated seeds which have opened their cotyledons, transplant them into deeper trays or pots at 2-5cm spacing depending on varieties (check seed packet or Koanga Garden Guide for more info).
Prepp for next week
- Pamper your seedlings so you can plant them out in the first half of November. Liquid fertilisers and slow hardening off is the recipie for success.
- Keep on top of weeds by regular hoeing. Much easier than pulling bigger weeds by hand, and you’ll exhaust the weed seed bank in the top few cm by hoeing regularly, with long term benefits.
Happy gardening, and hope to see you at the workshops!
Protecting young plants
From my last few posts, and probably your own experience too, you gather the importance of good care for your young “babies” freshly planted out in the garden. Wellington weather in this season varies wildly, and a night of southerlies can check the growth for several days or even weeks.
This coming week, we have quite stable temperatures, although windy and dry. This is a good thing! Hopefully, the soil will warm up – especially if you have cloches or black plastic out – and be ready to welcome some heatlovers in a couple of weeks: zucchini, green beans, and the first tomatos.
To do 14th – 21st October (Full moon Sunday 16th)
- Prick out & plant out leafy plants: lettuce, chard/silverbeet, spinach, cabbage, kale, cavolo nero… Best done 14-16th.
- Foliar feed today Friday if you didn’t yesterday, and then again Wednesday 19th – seaweed is ideal with all the micronutrients.
- Prick out tomatos, eggplants, zuccinis and other fruiting plants Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th.
- Sow lawn seeds on prepared areas on the day of the full moon for quick germination.
- Wednesday 19th October is ideal for seed sowing too:
- plant main crop potatos
- sow seeds to grow seedlings for planting out in December.
- direct sow beetroot, carrot and turnips
- sow autumn flowers and leafy greens – can also be done on the following weekend
- Set up protection systems for young newly transplanted seedlings: cloches for warmth, netting against the birds, foliar feed for extra nutrients, diatomaceous earth to deal with snails and slugs…
- Hoe all the newly planted beds so the soil surface doesn’t crust over and young weeds don’t get established.
- If you have access to a good source of mulch (cacao husks is my favorite), apply some now: make sure the soil is moist, then water while you’re adding thin layer after thin layer of mulch. Otherwise it either blows away or stops the rain from getting through to the roots! Then be extra vigilant in snail/slug patrol at night, as they tend to move in to the mulch and breed there.
To prepare now for next week
- Check your irrigation system and make sure it’s practical for you – you’ll start using it soon! If you have young fruit trees, how will you water them?
- If you don’t have comfrey in your carden, try and get hold of some roots to to plant!
- If you do have comfrey, it has probably sprouted now and the shoots show you where the different roots are. If they’re close together, dig some out to make more space and either transplant to another area where they can spread, or make them root in some potting mix and give away to other gardeners 🙂
- Source mulch for your tomatos, zuccinis and other bigger plants
- Get nets and hoops ready for berry beds
My workshop series on how to grow food efficiently on a small surface, “Grow More Veges” runs on Wednesdays from 19th October – still spaces left, so sign up now! You can register for one workshop or the bundle of six, up to you. As always, 2 spots are available for Timebank credits.
How is your garden looking now? Pretty bare, with young seedlings just establishing? Or still a jungle of last season’s growth? Take it step by step and get new plants protected and well established. Leaving some old and tall plants around can help create a micro-climate the young seedlings appreciate, cutting the wind and the heavy rain. But if your soil needs aerating, take old crops out before you dig, or it will be unnecessarily complicated!
This week is ideal time for repotting, transplanting, pricking out and planting out. On Sunday 9th (rain day 16th) I’m running a FREE 101 Food Growing workshop at workerBe oasis’ Spring Celebration. There will also be stalls to share, swap, buy and sell seedlings, so you can bring some there, or take some home!
This week: First quarter, Sunday 9th October
- Prick out seedlings you’ve grown from seed as soon as the cotyledons (very first leaves, that don’t look like the “normal” leaves) have opened. Move them to a much deeper (8-12cm) tray at 2-5cm distance depending on the variety. Be sure they have enough light for this whole stage. Leave them in these trays/pots until the leaves start touching each other. By then, they’re sturdy enough to get hardened off and planted outside. It’s really good practice here in Wellington, where weather is so unpredictable in spring!
- If you’re not growing from seed, buy good quality seedlings to plant out now. All the leafy greens along with celery, peas and beans can go in now. I recommend organic seedlings from Common Property (available at all Commonsense Organics stores) or Oakdale Organics (available at some garden centres). These establish better relationships with the soil life and are therefore better at taking up nutrients.Remember to harden them off slowly, as they have been very well protected until now!
- Prep the beds: spread 2-5cm of compost and a good quality organic fertiliser (either RokSolid or Nature’s Garden), fork into the top 10cm and rake the surface crumbly and flat, ready to plant or sow.
- If you need to fill in a lawn, now is a good time to prepare it: mow really low, rake off moss and debris, spread lime and poke holes with a fork to get some air in, then rake again. Best is to use a wire leaf rake, it scratches the surface just right!
- Plant out onion seedlings 11th October
- Foliar feed regularly, especially on Thursday 13th (3 days before full moon). Use any of the recipies I shared two weeks ago!
- Prick out and plant out “leafies” 14-16th: celery, cabbages (kale & cavolo nero too), spinach, lettuce, silver beet…
Prepare now for next week (full moon Sunday 16th October)
- Buy lawn seeds to sow on prepared areas on the day of the full moon (Sunday 16th).
- Get trays and potting mix ready to prick out tomatos, eggplants, zuccinis and other fruiting plants Monday 17th and Tuesday 18th.
- Check your seeds to have enough to direct sow beetroot, carrot, turnips and autumn flowers, and to plant main crop potatos, and to grow seedlings for planting out in November and December.
- Make sure you have everything to care for the young newly transplanted seedlings: cloches, netting, foliar feed, diatomaceous earth to deal with snails and slugs…
- Sharpen your hoe and other weeding tools (niwashi…) and keep them sharp! There’s a lot less work to do when you can just quickly go over all the beds and aerate the surface, killing the weeds at seedling stage instead of pulling them out once they are established. But it means doing this weekly over the next months, and keeping the tools sharp is essential!
Hope to see you Sunday at the Spring Celebration, 1-4pm at 5 Hospital rd!
Whoosh! That’s the sound of spring for me. Not just the speed at which growth suddenly bursts forth, but also the wind. Oh the welly winds… Luckily, my little haven is well protected but my previous garden really wasn’t and I feel for all who have a windy garden.
Wind breaks is essential, both using traditional windbreaking cloth from hardware stores and using plants. If you have enough space to plant a proper shelterbelt, I highly recommend it. If you’ve got a tiny wee vege patch, put up little shelters around your plants. Transparent plastic with good stakes deep in the ground is a good solution, like a little bent wall facing the wind. Pull up some soil around the base of it and lean it slightly over the plant so the wind doesn’t uproot your little shelter.
With a few gardener friends, we meet up every so often and do a job in one of our gardens. This Sunday, they all came to my place and we finally did the transplanting of my strawberries which was so overdue. All alone it felt like a too big task: dig up the strawberries, double dig the new bed, sieve compost, put on wormcastings and compost and fertiliser, rake, plant out, mulch… I don’t have a full day to do that! But with my friends it all got done and on top of it we got to catch up, drink tea and eat chocolate. And they helped me with plenty other little things as well which we hadn’t even planned! It’s such a good way to share ideas and get feedback on the weeds, pests and other unknowns in the garden, I really think we all should have our own “gardener pod”.
So, what’s next? This week, the moon comes into its first quarter on Wednesday. It’s still good to sow seeds for short-germinating plants until then, but after you better stick to feeding plants and managing pests. Leaves grow faster and roots slower in this phase so there’s a higher risk for sap-suckers if the plant’s don’t have all the nutrients they need to build sturdy tissues.
- Feed all leafy plants with seaweed liquid or ‘Vegetative Foliar” from Environmental Fertilisers.
- Feed the ones that have started budding, flowering or fruiting with ‘Reproductive Foliar’ (same brand)
- Keep weeds down with the niwashi and reapply mulch where planted out
- Prick out seedlings that have come up
- In the evening, spray neem dilution on anything that’s got aphids (in my case that’s basically the whole hothouse, the mandarin, the orange and the roses… that’s what you get when you don’t repot in time and you leave the country for a couple of weeks!)
- Keep soil moist and nice, it doesn’t seem like it’s going to rain this week either (Check by opening with a hand trowel and check with your fingers. It should be nice and humid all the way.)
- Keep an eye on the leafy growth of stone fruit, look for signs of curly leaf and take off and burn/trash affected leaves
There you go! Make sure you follow WorkerBe Oasis facebook page to stay in the loop with the urban farm. I’ll be running my workshops there soon, we’re working on the schedule right now.
Have a nice week and enjoy the sun 🙂 !